Monday, February 24, 2014

Blues ready to hit the ground running

Team had success season ago when schedule 
was compacted, winning 19 of 29 games in 55 days

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Being given a break and a moment to step back to allow the mind and body to heal was good medicine for the Blues.

Now as they embark on a stretch of games that will see them play 25 games over 47 days, the Blues must tackle head-on the challenges of what a stretch run will bring.

"It's always good to have a little break, especially with March coming and it's a very busy schedule," defenseman Roman Polak said, citing the 15 games in 27 days in March. "The rest of the season is pretty busy. I think the little break is going to help but it depends on how you play in the games. ... Physically you're ready for it, but mentally you have to get in the game."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Roman Polak was one who benefited
from getting a break during the Olympics.

A division title, conference title and Presidents' Trophy are all within reach for the Blues (39-12-6), who have 84 points and tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the Central Division lead and three points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the overall points lead in the NHL. The Blues have three games in hand on both teams.

But the Blues have been down this road before. It was a different set of circumstances with the lockout-shortened season last year, but the Blues are used to packing multiple games into a short period of time late in the season.

The Blues typically spend more time than not on the road, particularly when Scottrade Center is used for the Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament the first weekend in March, and that was the case last season.

The Blues played 14 games in 28 days in March and another 15 games in 27 days in April. They were 7-7 in March but were 12-3 in April to win 19 of 29 games in 55 days.

Associate coach Brad Shaw cites the Blues' ability to utilize all 20 guys that play as a key to success.

"The one thing that benefits us is we get our success through the team game," Shaw said. "We don't rely on one or two key guys. We have some fantastic pieces, but I really think it's our discipline to stick to the team game that gives us a chance to win night in and night out. The sooner that can show up and be a big part of how we play, then the sooner we get back to having the success that we want."

That also includes relying on both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in goal.

"We're going to be on the road a lot (in March)," Elliott said. "They're going to be valuable points. Getting two or one, it's going to be important down to every point. 

"Whoever's in (goal) has to do the job. We'll take things as they come. It's important for the rest of the team to build off of us."

It'll be especially important for the Blues to find that balance between playing and getting the proper rest with so few days off between games.

"Coaches did a great job last time managing what we do," Polak said. "I think they know what to do. I think they're prepared for that.

"I don't think we care about the standings right now. We just want to win the games. The first goal is to win against Vancouver and if we win, the other goal is to win the next game against Anaheim. We're just going to focus on that."

The Blues will open with a three-game trip to Vancouver, Anaheim and Phoenix before coming home to face Tampa Bay, then hitting the road again for three more in Nashville, Colorado and Minnesota.

"We expect to hit the ground running," Shaw said. "We expect to be a great team in Vancouver and then really challenge Anaheim on Friday night as well and going forward."

* NOTES -- The remaining Blues Olympians (David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund, Jat Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo as well as general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock) arrived in St. Louis Monday morning from Newark, N.J. None were at the rink to practice Monday and Shaw doesn't expect any of them to practice Tuesday in Vancouver. They won't hit the ice with their teammates until the morning skate Wednesday.

. . . Vladimir Sobotka (knee) did not participate in the practice Monday, but Shaw thinks he will begin some sort on-ice work this week. Sobotka, as well as defenseman Jordan Leopold (ankle) are traveling.

"Sobe, I think, is starting to get active again," Shaw said. "I believe he is going to try skating at some point this week but that'll be fairly light. Quite a ways away. Still down the road."

With Sobotka still ailing, the team recalled forward Dmitrij Jaskin from the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves Monday morning.

. . . Center Maxim Lapierre did not practice for a second consecutive day. Lapierre and his wife are the proud parents of a baby girl, Amelia, who was born Sunday morning. Lapierre will accompany the team to Vancouver.

No comments:

Post a Comment